During consults, parents often ask us to describe our approach to doula work. Our answer is always the same: FLEXIBLE.
Since we began working with families in 2014, we’ve come to believe that flexibility is the number one trait we can cultivate in ourselves and our doula practice to best serve our clients.
Our flexible approach to birth means that we are not tied to any one particular idea of what birth should look like, of what coping during labor looks like, or of what choices our clients make during birth.
Here are a few examples of what this looks like among our clientele:
Our clients run the gamut from planned home birth to planned cesarean, and everything in between.
Some of our clients know they definitely want medical pain management as part of their game plan, others have a sense that they’d prefer to avoid that if possible, and still others aren’t really sure.
We work with clients who’ve taken many types of classes in preparation for birth, from Birthing From Within to Bradley Method to Hypnobirthing to Hypnobabies to classes at their hospital to classes with us, and more. And some of our clients choose not to take a birth preparation class at all.
To us, flexibility is the essential ingredient of our role as doulas. We are here to support our clients’ births, period. No matter where our clients plan to birth or what their ideal birth situation looks like, we’re ready to support them through the process.
If you’re looking for an Orange County doula, we think flexibility should be a significant factor in your decision-making process as you find the right fit for you. We’ve included some questions throughout this post to help you think about ways this topic can affect your experience of labor. (Also be sure to check out our post on how to interview a doula!)
So why does flexibility matter so much when it comes to birth?
Well, let’s start with the opposite of flexibility, RIGIDITY. Rigidity says there is a right way to do something. There are certain steps you take to get certain results. And if you took those steps and didn’t get those results, then you must have done something wrong along the way. Or maybe someone else did something wrong. Either way, someone messed up and now failure takes the place of success.
Obviously we’re oversimplifying here and this sounds pretty extreme. But in all seriousness, rigid expectations can be really detrimental (and even lead to birth trauma). Like it or not, we all have bits and pieces of rigidity within us. We have ideas - conscious and unconscious - that we’ve been absorbing since childhood about how we expect ourselves to behave, how we expect others to behave, and how we expect things to go in life. And when things take a left turn when we weren’t ready for it, those little pieces of rigidity within ourselves can protest and cause a LOT of suffering. They may be small, but their voices are loud.
If you work with a doula who has rigid ideas about how people should give birth and your experience falls outside of their definition of what is the “right way” for things to go, what might that feel like in the moment? Will you continue to feel well-supported?
Flexibility recognizes that the journey is just as important as the destination.
When we honor birth as a journey, as a rite of passage, suddenly the path leading up to the birth of a baby takes on a whole different meaning. We are no longer focusing on a certain result, but on navigating the twists and turns of the experience with as much grace as possible. Flexibility honors those twists and turns and offers valuable insight. It says, “Ok, that isn’t working anymore? Here’s something else to try - maybe it will get us around the next bend in the road.”
When parents tell us their stories of birth, they often emphasize how they felt when something changed or shifted. When those feelings involve deciding to approach something with flexibility instead of rigidity, their story almost always starts to gather up threads of resilience, determination, and trust in themselves and the people who helped them.
Choosing to have flexibility in your corner can make such a huge difference in your overall experience of birth.
What might it feel like if a moment arises when you want to be flexible but your doula encourages you to stick to a rigid path focused on a specific outcome?
Flexibility gives you options.
Approaching birth with flexibility means recognizing that one tried-and-true way of handling something might not work in all cases. It means understanding that each birth is different, just as each parent and child are different. It means staying open to possibility and creativity. It means recognizing THIS BIRTH of THIS BABY as the unique event that it is.
There can come a time in birth where for whatever reason the things you learned about or practiced or wanted to try just aren’t working. In those moments, flexibility shows up with a backpack full of new ideas and tricks and insights you hadn’t thought of before.
Allowing yourself to move past the thing that isn’t working anymore (even if you had really really REALLY wanted it to work) can be one of the hardest things in birth… AND it can be one of the most meaningful. Learning to be flexible in the face of a challenge - even if it’s hard, and even if those little voices of rigidity in our minds are loud and persistent - is one of the great lessons birth can bring.
Do the doulas you’re considering seem to propose a “right way” to give birth on their website, social media, or in person? Does it feel important to you to work with a doula who could help you access a wide range of tools for getting through labor in case your go-to resources aren’t quite enough?
Most important, flexibility is compassionate.
Flexibility understands that there are many ways to approach most situations in life. And there are many reasons why someone might choose one way over another. But choosing one approach doesn’t have to mean ignoring all the others. In fact, if backed into a corner, flexibility says, “WAIT! I have another idea. Let’s try something else to see if it does the trick.”
Using your flexibility muscle to try something new - even if it wasn’t plan A - is one of the kindest ways to approach something as big as birth. With a more flexible attitude, left turns are almost baked into our expectations from the get-go. The notion of success vs. failure falls away as we turn instead to the idea of navigating challenges as they come, almost like learning to ride out a wave.
As attractive as it can be to think of birth as black-and-white, simple, and straightforward, it almost never is. When we can recognize all of the gray area involved with bringing a baby into the world, flexibility can start to feel like the best resource we have in the face of so much uncertainty. And to be honest, facing uncertainty is often what parents describe as the hardest part of pregnancy, birth, and parenting. Flexibility might just be one of the keys to making that a bit easier!
How might it feel validating, encouraging, or supportive to work with a doula who understands that birth is dynamic and that there are so many different variables involved? Can you see yourself appreciating a doula with a less black-and-white approach to birth?
As doulas, we understand that things can change on the complicated road to welcoming a new baby. And we understand that sometimes our support needs to shift to accommodate those changes.